Report: Andre Lotterer possible for Caterham debut at Spa

5 Comments

File this one under the “out of left field” category. Autosport’s Jon Noble reported Monday that three-time and reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, also a World Champion in the FIA World Endurance Championship, could make a shock Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The car’s expected to have significant upgrades and Noble reported that bringing in a fresh face to the team could help. Lotterer would replace Kamui Kobayashi, who coincidentally, he raced against in the FIA WEC last season.

Lotterer has past ties to the new management group at Caterham. As a rookie at Le Mans in 2009, Lotterer drove with Colin Kolles’ customer Audi R10 TDI program, and the sister car was driven by Christijan Albers. Albers and Kolles are now involved with Caterham, having been identified in the management shake-up earlier this year.

Both Lotterer’s main program, Audi Sport, and his Super Formula effort would need to sign off on the deal to allow it to happen.

The move would be a surprise. Lotterer, the 32-year-old German, served as Jaguar’s test driver in 2002, taking over for Tomas Scheckter in the role. But he never sniffed a race seat.

If it happens, this would be the first in-season driver change of 2014. Each of the last two years, there’s been only one, both times at Lotus (Jerome d’Ambrosio in for Romain Grosjean at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix and Heikki Kovalainen in for Kimi Raikkonen at last year’s United States and Brazilian Grands Prix).

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.